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Rebuild muscle with formative learning

This summer, many schools have waited in vain for their test results. The TES (July 4) quoted one teacher: "I am teaching Year 6 next year and am appalled that all their hard work (and mine) could end up in another fiasco like this."

But why are schools waiting on the results of one summative set of tests to tell them how their children have learnt in a year? Surely, despite government pressure to achieve percentage success at specified levels, teachers must know better? Has the teaching profession become so weak under this standards agenda that it cannot raise enough muscle to demonstrate to the Government that there are other ways of measuring children's progress? Or have teachers, continually bombarded by the strategies, been gulled into believing that there is only one way to "prove" that learning is taking place?

There is another route: formative teaching and learning. This provides exemplifications of children's learning and its development - a richness of data that a test cannot supply. Models of this practice are operating in some schools, and our research has identified and praised them because they are not getting the support they need from local authority bean counters.

Bill Boyle, Professor of Educational Assessment and Marie Charles University of Manchester.

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